McAllister Talk Photo-200x150“Consequences of the Good Fight: How Military Doctors Enabled Trench Warfare by Improving Public Health, 1870-1914” 

Tuesday, February 21, 7:00 p.m.

In the decades preceding the First World War, military physicians in Europe, the United States, and Japan succeeded to a remarkable extent in improving the health of soldiers and sailors. Moreover, they promoted improved public health throughout their societies by inculcating military recruits with improved sanitary practices that were transferred to families and subsequent generations. Eventually, these improvements resulted in larger numbers of healthier soldiers, which in turn contributed to the gridlock that produced trench warfare in World War I. This presentation outlines how highly-publicized German successes during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) led to increasing communication among, and heightened competition between, military-medical officers of the Great Powers. This emerging professional class of experts restructured hospitals, created mobile surgical aid stations, designed specialized railroad evacuation cars, introduced standardized first-aid packets issued to every soldier, organized large numbers of volunteers to treat the sick and wounded behind the lines, and persuaded commanding officers to change the way they clothed, marched, fed, and bivouacked troops. They even conducted the world’s first large-scale experiments with performance-enhancing drugs and pioneered psychological treatment of trauma cases. These physician-soldiers created a specialized literature, the military-medical journal, enabling rapid dissemination of new ideas, discoveries, and techniques, and they created one of the world’s first international professional associations to measure their success against their compatriot-rivals. This remarkable story highlights the accomplishments of these little-known heroes, while also weighing price of their success

William B. McAllister holds a Ph.D. in Modern European and Diplomatic History from the University of Virginia. In addition to serving as Special Projects Division Chief in the Office of the Historian, Department of State, he teaches as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. McAllister has published widely on the history of international drug control, compiled volumes in the statutorily required Foreign Relations of the United States series on global issues and United Nations affairs for the Nixon and Ford administrations, and served as Acting General Editor of the Foreign Relations series during 2009–2010.

Location: The Marshall House, 217 Edwards Ferry Road, Leesburg, VA

Admission: Free for GCMIC Members. Donation requested by non-members. Become a member.

RSVP Required.  Please contact GCMIC by emailing or calling 703-777-1301.

Parking is available at The Shops at The Marshall House located at 312 East Market Street, the Loudoun County Government parking garage located on Loudoun Street (between Harrison and Church streets) and metered spots in downtown Leesburg. There is no public access from Edwards Ferry Road. Only handicapped parking is permitted on the grounds.